Healthcare News & Insights

Network checklist: How to make your infrastructure more resilient

GettyImages-170645967Healthcare innovation can be a double-edged sword: The evolution is occurring rapidly, and networks must be flexible enough to respond to new and ever-changing demands. In this guest post, Karin Ratchinsky, director of healthcare vertical strategy at a global communications provider, explains that to keep up, IT systems must be both nimble and resilient, with standardized, streamlined processes to integrate new technology, and scale amid evolving and sometimes cyclical demands.


Data growth, healthcare consumerism and continuous innovation are impacting network infrastructures in numerous ways. One of the most exciting developments for us as individual patients is the trend toward leveraging tools like Internet of Things-connected smart devices, trackers, and personalized mobile health tools to help us track our health and the health of our loved ones.

Technology and intelligence distilled from analytics can also help us understand at a population level how best to inform policies, clinical protocols, pharmaceutical priorities and health IT strategies, and can propel incubators, entrepreneurs and other healthcare leaders. But to do that IT systems must have specific features.

Building a resilient network infrastructure

Four critical features of resilient, next-generation healthcare network infrastructure include:

  1. Scalability: The nimble, intelligent network infrastructure of the future will effectively bend and flex with demands. If a department is carrying out sophisticated genomics modeling or accessing compute cycles in the cloud, then that department’s connection will have to scale up, intelligently or on demand, according to user preferences.
    In the case of an outbreak or weather event, healthcare organizations will have to scale up communications vehicles, and patient empowerment and guidance tools to respond appropriately. Software-defined parameters, schedules and thresholds will help networks ensure performance and enable much-needed scalability.
  1. Security: Network security is about protecting information – as well as ensuring performance and uptime for applications that can be critical to patient care. The more digitized tools are integrated into the care continuum, the higher the ante will be on network performance and security.
    Security is a global concern as healthcare organizations are targeted by bad actors worldwide. As a result, IT organizations need to work with best-of-breed partners with global viewpoints in order to develop comprehensive strategies to secure network infrastructure. According to a recent study, 96% of healthcare IT executives admitted to feeling vulnerable to data threats, and 63% reported having experienced a data breach.
    In response, 60% admit to focusing more resources on data protection, and 46% already have plans to catch up to industry best practices by implementing data security tools. Ensure your organization is working with partners that have global visibility and can deploy comprehensive security solutions to help predict, protect and thwart attacks to help ensure application uptime, data security and business continuity.
  1. Connectivity: Health care is becoming increasingly interconnected, and medical leaders will be cross-connecting with one another globally to execute on analytics, collaborate and tie together applications or technical functions.
    Players should partner with providers that are highly connected within the medical community, key technology players and SaaS providers. Over time, these relationships will become more important as IT seeks to make newly gained data actionable and accessible without disturbing the system’s routine workflow.
  1. Performance: Ensuring high network performance often means partnering with a provider that invests in their architecture, in building relationships with key partners and in optimizing your core sites. According to HIMSS Analytics, hospital IT leaders may be faced with different demands, but they all agree that a highly operational and reliable network is key to any system’s success.

Future of healthcare’s network infrastructure

Each of these traits is vital to a high-performing healthcare network, but to be successful, leaders should approach the network as an enabling technology – not a cost center. Infrastructure isn’t sexy, but it’s instrumental to ensuring the performance of exciting and transformational technologies, enabling patients and caregivers alike. Two ways you can protect your infrastructure’s future include:

  • Identify your core competencies and nourish them while leveraging best-of-breed partners to execute on other requirements, such as security and threat intelligence or cloud connectivity for your network.
    Cost efficiencies, robust disaster-recovery solutions and the need for more scalable platforms were among the top cloud adoption motivators cited in a recent HIMSS analytics survey. As such, more organizations continue to partner with recognized industry leaders in healthcare cloud services – such as Microsoft, Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google – to provide the network infrastructure they need to succeed.
  • Involve all stakeholders, including the leaders of key departments, to ensure that the entire system shares the same vision and road map to success and integrates cross-functional requirements into the collective strategy.
    Stakeholders include your best-of-breed network and security partners, key cloud solution and SaaS providers, and other technology partners that are integral to your business and provide insight into considerations and functionalities that often enhance and bolster your strategies.

As healthcare embraces the newest waves of technology, networks will have to adapt to the influx of device-generated data and the need to communicate securely with other systems. Fortunately, network infrastructures are highly capable of withstanding and enabling this exciting change.

Karin Ratchinsky is the director of healthcare vertical strategy at Level 3 Communications, a global communications provider.  


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